Thursday 28 April 2011

INDIAN – Guilty Of Being Sludge

Chicago-based sludge metal mongers Indian took the sub-genre to its limits of raw heaviness and sheer brutality with their fourth studio record “Guiltless”, which was released through Relapse in April of 2011. Devastating and hammering riffage, extreme vocal abuse and suffocating tempos are what Indian is about. The weak don’t come out of there alive. Will Lindsay, on duty as a guitarist and vocalist, and earlier involved in the Wolves in the Throne Room and Nachtmystium, told We Wither about his bands and other extremely important issues.

I have to tell you „Guiltless” is a ruthless, merciless, radical album. You don’t play blast beats or participate in the metal-racing contest but still it’s very extreme. Is it your heaviest album so far?

I feel that it is, but various people will no doubt have various opinions. A lot of people into Indian still swear by “The Unquiet Sky” as the heaviest.

How do you get such a heavy sound? Is it only a matter of production?
Production certainly plays a role in the heavy sound. The equipment that we use is very crucial to the heavy sound, as well. The guitars were Les Pauls, a Monson Doomsayer and a Lakland bass. The amps were Sunn Model Ts, a Marshall JCM 800 2203 and an Acoustic 370. The cabinets and drums were all Emperors. Sanford's expertise and knowledge as an engineer was very important, as well.

Does the album have a concept in terms of the lyrics? Could you point out the most important things you sing about on “Guiltless”?
There is a concept through the album but Dylan wrote almost all of the lyrics and I wouldn't feel comfortable commenting on what he wrote. The lyrics that I wrote tie into the concept of being guiltless and are about a personal experience in my not-too-distant past. I'm afraid it is something I can't really get into, though, as I wouldn't want to name or embarrass the people involved in the aforementioned experience.

Does your band name mean that you identify with the native Americans in the way you feel like rejects and misfits, or is that explanation a little bit too obvious and naive?
The band started before I was a member and I never have asked why they chose that name. I would imagine that it is something other than the idea that you mentioned, though.

Is there a distinct line between doom and sludge in modern metal? What would you rather call Indian?
I don't really have an opinion. However, a lot of other people seem to. I personally don't have a preference in which term people use to describe us. Whatever is going to help them make sense of what we're doing or whatever is going to give them a comfortable reference point is on them.

You have been recording with Sanford Parker, who has produced lots of awesome albums is the last couple of years. What is the best thing about working with him?
Sanford is a good friend of ours. There are a lot of great things about working with him. He's actively involved in the “scene” or “genre” or whatever beyond his role as an engineer. He has a lot of good ideas and he is not afraid to voice them. He also has a high level of tolerance for people and their idiosyncrasies, which is a key and often overlooked element of being an engineer.

How close is Indian with the hardcore/punk Chicago scene?
I've only been living out here since July and have not really gotten involved in the local punk/hardcore scene. I haven't really been involved in the local punk/hardcore scene since I lived in Eugene, OR, honestly.

I really like your artwork. I generally love bands that stick to certain aesthetics and develop it from album to album. Could you tell me about the graphic artists you have worked with?
The only artist we have worked with for our album-related stuff has been Scott Fricke. He is a tattooist here in Chicago and a good friend of the band. Scott has been very good at making visual representations of our music and ideas. He actually spent some time at the studio with us to get his ideas for what to do with the artwork for “Guiltless”.

You seem to love tattoos and all of the Indian covers look like perfect ideas for a tattoo. Did you get any of them inked yet?
I have the pentagram that we use for our logo on my shoulder. Everyone in the band with the exception of Sean has the pentagram. I don't know that I would get album-specific tattoos, but I do love Scott's style and look forward to having him tattoo me in the future.

Are any of your tattoos related to the music or bands in general?
I have four Black Flag tattoos. I also have the word “Outlaw” tattooed on my wrist, which has a lot of meanings. One of which is a nod to Waylon Jennings. I also have a portrait of Hank Williams, Sr. tattooed on me.

What made you go vegan? Did you ever care about bands such as Day of Suffering or Earth Crisis, which try to talk about social problems?
I became a vegan in 1997 for ethical reasons. It was just something that I didn't want to take part in anymore. I grew up hunting and fishing and had never felt entirely comfortable with it, which also contributed, albeit in a more latent fashion. I still have the same ethical feelings but it isn't something I really go flaunting about and I certainly have no intention of using the band as a platform for that or any other ideology.
I never cared for the bands you mentioned. Bands that were talking about social problems and such that I was into were more along the lines of Born Against, Man is the Bastard, Noothgrush and the like. All of which are still bands I still love.

Why did Middian only manage to complete one album “Age Eternal” in 2007? Was Mike Scheidt too busy with Yob to keep Middian going?
I was actually talking to my friend that booked that band last week about things. The band seemed kind of cursed from the start. There were always some underlying personal tensions that really flared up when our lawsuit happened and it is ultimately what killed the band. I think the band not being universally accepted in Yob's place is what also led Mike to reform Yob. Our last tour, half of our set was Yob songs. That really kind of put the writing on the wall. That and the fact that the law suit really kind of pulled us apart. It was too bad. I really miss playing with both Mike and Scott.

You were involved with the 2009 Wolves in the Throne Room album “Black Cascade”. Was it just an episode for you? Why did you leave the band so quickly?
I was also on the “Malevolent Grain” EP and the “Live at Roadburn 2008”. I played with them for a few years and did not join the band with the intention of it being solely an episode. My leaving the band is rather complicated to explain without having to tell some details that are really not to be shared publicly. The best I can do is state that the Weavers and I have different ways of looking at a lot of things. We did try to make it work and it didn't. Unfortunately, I don't think any of us feel very good about how everything ended up, but we did the best that we could. We're still friends and keep in touch and see each other when we're in town, which I am very happy about.
Wolves in the Throne Room is seen as a pretty specific band, with its own sound and atmosphere. Did you feel it was something special to be a part of it?
I never really thought of it in terms like that. I enjoyed playing with them and I particularly enjoyed all of the travel we did together. One of the points of contention between us is that I never cared for the visual aesthetics that the band had or the talk about spirituality/magic/etc., which is very important to Nathan and Aaron as well as a lot of people that like the band. It was a good experience and I'm happy that I did it. Ultimately, Aaron and Nathan are happier not having a dissenting opinion and I'm happier playing with people that I have more in common with. I must add that I am also happy to not be involved in the black metal scene. It's not a scene I was ever particularly interested in as a fan or musician, with a few exceptions.

You were also part of Nachtmystium during sessions for the 2010 album “Addicts: Black Meddle Pt. II”. That material is really original and different to anything else. Was the recording inspiring too?
I don't know that I would use the word “inspiring”. I had a lot of fun making that record. Usually, I don't enjoy the recording process, although I am certainly happy to have the finished product. I think part of what was so enjoyable about making that record is that I wasn't emotionally involved as I was never really a member of the band or anything. It ended up being a lot more casual than any other recording session I've done, which I think definitely contributed to the final product. Blake is extremely open to other people's suggestions and ideas as well.

Tuesday 19 April 2011

MINSK – Fire and Silence

Not many bands know better than Minsk how to deliver ritualistic and atmospheric metal full of worthwhile arrangements and clever turns. The Chicago quartet has released three albums – 2009’s “With Echoes in the Movement of Stone” being their last so far – as well as the 2010 Hawkwind Triad split collaboration with Harvestman and US Christmas. It offers real quality in terms of dark doom tremors and uneasy tension. Bass player and vocalist Sanford Parker, who is also a well-known underground producer and a member of such groups as Twilight, Buried at Sea and Nachtmystium, answered a couple of questions about his various initiatives.

I decided to do this interview with Minsk because it’s your most productive band. You’ve done three full-length records in five years. Does that make Minsk your most important band?
For now yes, Minsk has been the most productive band out of the bunch. This year I have been pretty busy playing out with Nachtmystium. We just got back from a seven-weeks-long tour with Cradle of Filth. We’re also playing some fest in Europe this summer and a European tour this fall. So right now this is taking up my time as far as shows. I’m also putting together a band to start playing out with Circle of Animals so Minsk may have to go on the back burner for me but I’ll still be doing it.

What do you think of a comparison of Minsk to Neurosis?
I like Neurosis.

This might be a little bit of a naïve question, but have you ever been to Belarus or the city of Minsk? Have you ever played in this part of Europe? 
Nope, I’ve played Moscow but that’s as close to Belarus as I’ve gotten. We’ve tried to get agents to set up shows there but they always say it’s too hard and not a good idea. Maybe one day, we’ll have to wait and see. Why, you got some hook ups?

What is happening with Buried At Sea at the moment. It’s been four years since your last EP “Ghost”?
The wheels are in motion. We just booked a show with Orange Goblin in June. That will be the first show in about 8 years. Maybe there will be more to come, European shows perhaps. No new material has been written though but I’m sure that’s around the corner as well.

The “Migration” album by Buried At Sea is one of the single heaviest things the extreme scene has ever given birth to. Have you ever heard any other band that sounded heavier than you?
Swans “Kill the Child” – this is true heavy. No metal record can touch this. This album will crush every “doom” song ever written. Listen to this album in the dark = total bumout!!!

Your second album with Twilight, 2010’s “Monument to Time End”, was not only critically acclaimed because of its content but also because of the outstanding musicians involved in the band. Is it a piece of cake or rather a constant war of egos working with such creative guys as ex-Isis guitarist Aaron Turner, Nachtmystium leader Blake Judd or N.Imperial of Krieg?
Everyone involved on this record are good friends, no egos just bros. This is one of my favourite records I’ve been involved with. This album was a blast to make, everyone brought just the right amount to the table and I feel the end result is new and exciting like nothing I’ve ever heard. I’m hoping third Twilight record will happen and if it does we will have new and improved bros.
Although Twilight is labelled a black metal band, do you sense the direct influences of groups like Burzum, Mayhem or Satyricon in your music? 
I personally don’t listen to a lot of black metal but the other guys do, so yes these bands are an influence. Everyone listens to such a wide variety of music that black metal is just a percentage of the overall mix and I think that’s what makes this band unique.

Are Circle of Animals and The High Confessions one-timers or do you plan on doing more records with these bands? Were you the one who gave life to both bands?
The High Confessions part two is almost complete and I’ve started collecting drum tracks for the next Circle of Animals. I’ll start writing and recording songs over the next few months. Aiming for a fall release on both. Circle of Animals was my brainchild and soon after Bruce Lamont got involved. The High Confessions was the idea between Jeremy Lemos and myself. Jeremy and I ran Semaphore studios together, he also does sound for Sonic Youth hence Steve Shelley.

How are you able to fairly share your time between each of your bands? Do you get to sleep at all?
It seams like as one band rest another takes flight. I usually don’t have much overlap between projects. I also don’t stop. I rarely watch TV or sit on my ass. It’s taking all my will to sit long enough to do this interview. I don’t slow down and if I’m not in the studio making music I’m at a bar taking to a band about making music.

Your achievements as a producer get more and more praise. Can recording bands be inspiring or is it just hard work in the studio?
I haven’t worked a day since I stated making records. This to me is a privilege. I get to hang out with amazing people and make amazing music. I have just figured out a way to do what I love and make a living doing it. I also get ideas for my own stuff with every record I do. Working with other bands does inspire me personally with my own music. The idea I had with Circle of Animals as far as the drum looping was working on other albums. Just fucking with the band I would loop a small section and they would say “dude that sounds like a Ministry song” and I thought yeah you’re right it does.

Could you name a couple of records you produced that were a genuine challenge? What makes a real challenge? Is it simply a demanding band, a limited budget or maybe tracks with lots of layers? 
I love a good challenge. I get off on a guitarist walking into the studio and saying “Okay I want my guitar to sound like giraffe fucking a peacock in outerspace”. I don’t get a lot of demanding bands though, there has to be a level of trust between the musicians and myself. Their job is to rock and mine is to capture that the best I can. I’m not saying there’s not some head-butting going on but for the most part it’s fairly mellow.

Your studio Semaphore Recordings in Chicago closed in January 2011. Did you call it quits as a producer?
No! I did close the studio because I needed a break from running a studio and it frees up more time for me to tour and take on travel gigs. The closing of the studio had nothing to do with a lack of business, we were booked pretty solid. I just needed to step away for a while. I have no intentions of slowing down any time soon.

Working with which active band would be a dream come true for you as a producer?
Wovenhand, Dave Edwards is one of the best song writers – period.

What is the best sounding record of all time to you?
I like certain records for different reasons. The Mars Volta “De-Loused in the Comatorium” to me is a perfect sounding record. It’s powerful and clear. I really dig the dynamics of the mix. Killing Joke’s 2003 self-titled album has some of the most powerful drum tones. The guitars are super crisp and the vocal effects are tasty. His Hero Is Gone “Monument to Thieves” is just brutal sounding. It really sounds like this record could explode right off my turntable. These are the three albums I listen to before almost ever session I do.
Your Roky Erickson split with Minsk and Unearthly Trance is a great tribute to a fantastic song-writer. Was it difficult to make a decision on which song to choose?
No, when Unearthly Trance asked us to do it we all instantly said, “Stand for the Fire Demon”. We all felt the song is heavy enough and the cool break down left room for lots of cool sounds.

Are your massive sideburns some sort of a tribute to an old Victorian fashion?
Sideburns or sideboards are patches of facial hair grown on the sides of the face, extending from the hairline to below the ears and worn with an unbearded chin. The term sideburns is a 19th-century corruption of the original burnsides, named after American Civil War general Ambrose Burnside, a man known for his unusual facial hairstyle that connected thick sideburns by way of a moustache, but left the chin clean-shaven.

Wednesday 6 April 2011

CROWBAR – To Only Deal in Truth

They are often named the fathers of sludge metal alongside EyeHateGod and The Melvins. It’s actually hard to imagine most of the modern tough hardcore bands such as Hatebreed to even exist if not for Crowbar’s classic 1993 self-titled album and its timeless hits of “All I Had (I Gave)” or “Existence is Punishment”. Released in February 2011, “Sever the Wicked Hand” is their ninth studio effort and definitely one of the greatest too. Apart from Crowbar, distinctive leader Kirk Windstein delivers tons of heavy hard rock riffs for the celebrated New Orleans legends Down and the younger creation Kingdom of Sorrow, which makes him one of the busiest and most creative people in metal. While on tour with Saint Vitus, Helmet and Kylesa, Kirk tells We Wither about the upcoming live record, his relationship with the fans and how fortunate is it to be a gifted riff-maker.

„Sever the Wicked Hand” is the third Crowbar album in the last decade. Would you have recorded it earlier if you weren't touring with Down and starting Kingdom Of Sorrow?

Yes, we probably would have recorded earlier if I wasn’t so busy with Down.

The new record's sound reminds me of the „Sonic Excess In Its Purest Form”, which is my number one Crowbar album by the way. Did you want to return to that sound or is it just a coincidence?
“Sonic Excess…” was our best sounding record up until “Sever the Wicked Hand”, so yes, we tried to get the best sound that we could.

Your previous record, „Lifesblood for the Downtrodden”, had more complex arrangements. Did you want the simpler songs on the new album?
I always just write from the heart. I guess these song arrangements just felt more natural to be a bit simpler.

The album-closing track „Symbiosis” is Crowbar's finest along with earlier songs such as „The Lasting Dose”, „December's Spawn”, „Empty Room” or „(Can't) Turn Away From Dying”. Could you tell me about its creation and the lyrics?
I wrote the guitar riffs in about ten minutes hahaha! But the great songs usually come that way. Lyrically it’s about a symbiotic relationship with me and the fans. How they help me give 100% even when I’m sick or really run down from all the touring. It’s a perfect song to close out a perfect record!

You said the last recording session was the first time you had ever recorded vocals sober. Did it happen in the past that you messed with the lyrics so much that they came out differently that you planned at first?
No, the lyrics were always correct, I’d just be drinking beer while recording them. On this record it was a great feeling to remember everything and to know that I gave everything I could to each word.

Alcohol and drugs are for people and it's important to know your limits, but you can never beat them. The harder you try the harder they fuck you up. There is only one Lemmy, but many try to be like him too. Did you try yourself?
That is perfect because basically I was trying to be Lemmy but no one can do what he does! He’s the one and only!

Hurricane Katrina hit and devastated New Orleans in one week of August 2005. Where were you at the time and did you get over it by now? Did you lose any friends?
I was home with my sick mother. We didn’t get hit hard but yes we all lost friends. A very horrible experience.

Your song „Existence is Punishment” from the 1993 self-titled album is probably the most recognizable Crowbar line. Is it the best representation of what Crowbar stands for?
Maybe. It just means life is hard but I have a better outlook now and life is much better.

You're a big fan of bands like Motörhead and Thin Lizzy, but are you interested in checking out younger bands too? Who got your attention in the last few years?
I don’t really listen to new bands. For me they just don’t stand up to the classic bands that I grew up on but that’s probably because I’m getting older.

Could you go back in your memory and tell me about the formation of Down in 1991? Who gave the first impulse, who wrote the first couple of songs, who came up with the band name, etc?
Phil had the first impulse and he came up with the name. We all helped to form the sound of the first few songs.

You are often labelled as the riff-master. It's hard to argue with that statement. It's enough to listen to a random hardcore or sludge band to see how much your style influenced them. Do you spend ages trying to create new riffs or do they just pop into your head every minute? In other words, is it just hard work or have you got the gift?
Thankfully I have the “gift” I guess. I work hard at refining my riffs but the ideas come to me all the time thank God haha!

You have lots of tattoos and among them some heavy metal ones like Saint Vitus, Iron Maiden and That Metal Show. What else have you got and which tattoo is your favourite one?
I’ve honestly got too many to even count and I don’t really have a favourite. They are all an example of where I was at that time in my life.

Are you going to release anything on Phil Anselmo's label, Housecore Records?
Yes for sure. We have a new live record that is being mixed right now.

photo by Markus Lehto
I love each Crowbar record with all my heart but need to tell you one bitter thing. The new record's artwork is your worst to date. It's got none of the atmosphere of the previous covers. How do you explain this yourself?
I like it and I hate most of the older artwork. Everyone’s got their opinion I guess.

You're the leader in Crowbar and write the most of the material. What are the differences between the way Crowbar and Down work and write?
It’s much different to write with Down. Everyone has ideas and there are so many riffs going around. With Crowbar I write most everything although our bass player Pat Bruders has been coming up with some great stuff! It’s fun to write with both bands.